Archive for the ‘Industry Information’ Category

What is an APR and What did it do to my Rate?

March 10, 2011

After discussing some options and various programs with your Loan Officer you reach a plan that works for your situation.  You are satisfied with your interest rate and then you are handed that one piece of paper that shows in large, bold-faced type a number that is not what you recall discussing and the words, “Annual Percentage Rate” next to it.  Where did this number come from?  Did my interest rate change?  What will this do to my payment?

If you know nothing else about home loans and borrowing money, you understand that there is a cost associated with the money you are borrowing, specifically your interest rate.  However when presented with a new percentage and the words Annual Percentage Rate (or APR) next to it, you are left with more questions than answers.  Let us explain.

The interest rate is the cost percentage used to calculate your monthly payment.  However, there are other fees and charges associated with the set-up and origination of a loan.  The APR takes these fees and charges into account and provides the consumer with an effective rate (or total cost) of their loan expressed as a percentage.  The intent of the APR is for consumers to be able to compare competing lenders and various loan programs.

Lenders are required by law to disclose the APR to the borrower within 3 days of applying for a mortgage loan. In late 2008 further regulations were passed (effective in 2010) stating that if the APR changed by more than .125% from this initial disclosure on the Good Faith Estimate (GFE), the lender must re-disclose this information to borrower and wait another three business days before closing the loan.

The APR does not change your interest rate; rather it clarifies the true cost of your loan.  It generally includes points, origination fees, mortgage insurance and document prep fees.  It is not however, how your payments are calculated.  Your payments are still based on the interest rate you discussed with your loan officer.  We hope this helps.

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Gaining Perspective

February 9, 2011


There are times when you need to view something from a different angle to better understand it.  We tilt our heads when appreciating abstract art.  We walk around a new car to take in all the lines.  We step back when we place an arrangement on the table.  Changing the view gives us new perspective in order to better understand what we are looking at.

 

The same can be said when looking at factors and indicators of the economy, housing sector and interest rates.  We have all heard that interest rates are at historic lows, but just how low is that?  Did you miss out on this recent refinance boom?  Is this refinance boom even over?  Just where are rates right now anyway?

 

Interest rates have been tracked and recorded for the past 39 years.  In that time if there has been one constant, it would be change.  Consider these facts on 30-year fixed rate loans:

 

  • The average interest rate from one month to another has only held unchanged 14 times in 39 years.
  • Interest rates have dropped 2.69 points from 1972 when the average rate was 7.38% to 2010 where rates ended at 4.69% on average.
  • Over the past 39 years interest rates climbed as high as 11.07 points above the yearly average of 1972.
  • Interest rates have dropped as much as 14.22 points since their highest in October of 1981 when that single month boasted rates at 18.45%.
  • The highest yearly average interest rates occurred in 1981 at 16.63%.
  • The lowest rates on record happened last year in 2010 at just 4.69%.
  • Over 39 years the average interest rate was 8.92%, almost double 2010’s yearly average.

So yes, we really are at historically low interest rates!  Yes, this is still a fantastic time to review your current home loan to see if refinancing makes sense for you!  No, you most definitely have not missed out on these low rates!  And yes, it is a fantastic time to buy a home.  Not a bad view from that perspective.  Give us a call to review your current loan or to help you with a pre-approval for your new home.

A Doctor, A Loan Originator & a Client…

November 17, 2010

What do a doctor and a mortgage loan originator have in common?  No, this isn’t some riddle solved by a humorous response, this is a serious question. 

We have grown accustomed to asking for referrals when it comes to our medical professionals.  Whom we choose to trust with our medical welfare and that of our families often receives rather intense scrutiny.  We may start with a referral from a trusted source, but we often keep going with some research into patient comments, legal challenges and valid licensing.  All of these are good steps to take when you need to trust someone else with help in managing your health.

Yet, how much time do we spend investigating the person who will be helping us with perhaps the single most important transaction in our lives – the purchase of a home (not to mention a refinance)?  Some consumers will hold due diligence in this matter, but more often than not we are swayed by the suggestion of advertisements.  Now don’t get us wrong, marketing has a specific use and place.  But when you need to provide someone with a significant amount of personal and financial information, shouldn’t you do a little checking first?

Let’s go back to the initial question of what a doctor and mortgage loan officer have in common.  Doctors have long since taken the Hippocratic oath upon receiving their degrees.  Believed to have been originally written by Hippocrates, a doctor recites this oath promising to uphold and respect the profession they are entering, the assumed authority given and for the people they will help.  Doctors promise to be accountable for their actions and to maintain an air of humility in a continuing desire to teach and be teachable.  A physician also promises to act in the best interest of their patients by doing what is best for the patient, guarding their privacy and understanding there is more involved than just the specific medical situation at hand.  In a matter of speaking, Mortgage loan originators now have the same set of standards too.

The SAFE Act of 2008 (Secure And Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008) was developed “in order to increase uniformity, reduce regulatory burden, enhance consumer protection and reduce fraud”.  All of the items mentioned above that a doctor adheres to in the Hippocratic Oath can also be said of reputable mortgage loan originators.  Through the National Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) uniform license applications, requirements and testing have been put into place.  This is actually an advantageous move for loan originators and consumers alike.  In the same way that you can confirm information about your doctor through state Department of Community Health websites, information about your loan originator can be confirmed through the National Mortgage Licensing System and Registry website.

Does your mortgage loan originator respect their profession and the authority they have been given? 

Does your mortgage loan originator respect you?

Is your mortgage loan originator accountable for their actions?

Are they trustworthy and reliable?

Does your mortgage loan originator have a teachable spirit – both to help you understand your loan and to learn more themselves?

Does your mortgage loan originator act in your best interest?

Does your mortgage loan originator respect the confidentiality of your personal information?

Does your mortgage loan originator understand your personal goals and that you are much more that just a set of figures?

They should.  Expect more, and use a mortgage loan originator who is committed to working for you.

Not all Bones are Worth Barking at

July 13, 2010

The Home Buyer’s Tax Credit program has not only received much attention, but also much success among buyers who were able to take advantage of the incentive to receive up to $8,000 in tax credits.  The program was so successful that it was granted two extensions.  The first extension happened this past winter allowing more time and more buyers to get in on the action.  And thousands did!  The second extension was signed into action just 11 days ago by President Obama.  This second extension moves the deadline to close on these home loans from June 30 to September 30, 2010. 

While this may sound good on paper, did it even help anyone?  Were home buyers just thrown the proverbial dog bone?  The second extension affects home loans for purchase agreements that were finalized by April 30 of this year.  That means these contracts are now over 60 days old with most written to close within that time frame.  If a buyer takes another 90 days to close on their home loan, it will have taken 5 months to close their loan!  Are sellers even willing to wait that long to close on the sale of their home?  What affect with that long of a wait have on a sellers next purchase?

Perhaps the underlying question is why didn’t the home loan close in the first place?  You can make the argument that with all the home buyers flooding the market, lenders, appraisers, title companies, etc were suddenly backlogged with so much business they could not possibly keep up.  For some this is probably true, but is the extension too late?  Remember that the extension only changes the closing date.  The binding purchase contract still needs to be dated on or before April 30, 2010.  If the contract was written to close by June 30, 2010 and it did not, that contract is now void.  A written addendum to change the closing date changes the purchase agreement and while the buyer and seller may agree, it also means a final binding agreement was not in place by April 30.

The other challenge we have heard is that buyers were not properly qualified before they even made an offer on the home.  Unfortunately, many lenders only pre-qualify a borrower which means you have only verbally discussed your financial situation for purchasing a home.  A stronger case is when a borrower is pre-approved.  This means actual documentation on income, assets and debt load has been reviewed and verified.  Pre-approved borrowers have fewer surprises when their home loan is processed. (Awareness Home Funding always prepares our clients.)  Unfortunately, many home buyers wanting to take advantage of the Home Buyers Tax Credit are failing to close due to challenges that should have been addressed before they even began to shop for a new home.

The Home Buyers Tax Credit program was a good program that really worked, really helped buyers and really moved home sales.  This last extension just helps very few and was put into affect way too late.  But let’s not leave this post on a down note.  There is still a home buyer’s incentive program in place, one that has been there for some time – the Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program.

The MCC program is a Federal tax credit on the mortgage interest you pay on your home loan over a calendar year.  While this does not reduce your monthly mortgage payment, it is a dollar for dollar reduction from the amount of your Federal Income Tax liability.  Not every state offers the MCC since it is state run and funded despite being a federal program.  However, for states that do, it effectively reduces your annual interest rate.  Awareness Home Funding is committed to using the MCC program wherever available in the states we are licensed to conduct business.

The main point is this, while the Home Buyers Tax Credit program has ended, help is available for home buyers.  Call us today (866-982-9273) to see how we can help you.

It’s Baaack! (In a Good Way!!)

June 2, 2010

This past February we posted information on Rural Development (RD) home loans – what it is, how it works, why this is such a great program.  Interest in this program has really grown over the past few years because it is so consumer friendly.  We too have seen a steady increase in RD loans.  Our company continues to underwrite more RD loans than any other lender in the state of Michigan.

Unfortunately, by April of this year funding for the program had already been exhausted for the fiscal year that runs October 1 – September 30.  Kevin Smith, Area Director for Rural Development explained that, “Record demand, not only in Michigan but nationally, for the Guaranteed Rural Housing loan program lead to the full utilization of Congressionally appropriated funding at an early time frame this fiscal year.”

While more federal dollars have not be allocated yet, the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development has decided to continue the program again for the remainder of this fiscal year by issuing conditional commitments again.  What this means is that lenders can conditionally approve and close RD loans. 

The original article we posted on this loan program follows.  Of course you can always contact us directly to for more information (866-982-9823) too.

RD Loans – A Great Option to Consider

An RD loan is a Rural Development home loan offered by the Rural Housing Service specifically for moderate to lower income residents buying homes in rural areas.  A rural area is defined as a community with a population of 10,000 residents or less.  Although some communities located outside of a metropolitan statistical area can qualify with populations up to 20,000 residents. 

In plain English this means if you would like to purchase a home in an area that is not a large city there is a program available.  For most, when you initially think of what a rural area is you might envision acres of farmland or large acreage properties where your neighbor is a mile away.  Not so.  In many instances rural areas are just outside of major cities.  In fact in the state of Michigan, more areas qualify for rural status than areas that do not.  Many of these areas are cozy suburban towns with close knit neighborhoods and strong local schools. 

Another point to note is that the RD loan program cannot be used to purchase or refinance farms or large acre properties where the land far out values the home.  This is a program for consumers who meet the typical credit requirements of obtaining a home loan.  They are just in a slightly lower income bracket and do not have enough funds on hand for a 20%+ down payment.  If this isn’t a program that helps the “little guy” I don’t know what does!  The largest advantage of RD loans is that they currently remain one of the last true “zero down” home loan options.  (VA loans are the other zero down payment option.)

The basic guidelines for an RD loan include:

  • Loans may be used to purchase a single-family, primary residence.
  • On a refinance, the existing loan must already be an RD loan.
  • A borrower must lack sufficient resources to provide a down payment for a conventional loan (typically 20-25% of the purchase price).
  • The RD loan allows a borrower to finance up to 100% of the appraised value of the home without requiring private mortgage insurance. 
  • A one time funding fee is charged and may be financed as part of the loan.  (For purchases, 2% of the loan amount is charged.  On refinances, the fee is .5% of the loan amount.  See you Home Loan Specialist for specific details.)
  • The property must be located in a designated rural area, have all-weather street access, and have approved water and waste systems.
  • The value of the site may not exceed 30% of the total appraised property value.
  • Sellers may contribute up to 6% of the purchase price toward closing costs and pre-paids.
  • Gift funds are allowed.  (Consult a Home Loan Specialist for specific criteria.)
  • Currently, only above ground pools are allowed with RD loans.
  • The property may not be active farmland.

With comparable interest rates, high LTV (loan to value) allowance and no monthly mortgage insurance, RD loans provide a great option to home buyers who may have thought they could not qualify for a home loan.  Talk with one of our Home Loan Specialists (866-982-9823) about the specific details and how this program can work for you.

First-time Home Buyers Still have Options

May 13, 2010

The home buyer’s tax credit program has ended.  While many were able to take advantage of the savings; we also know that many more did not.  Perhaps the timing of the program didn’t fit with your current financial picture.  Do you feel left out and like the opportunity to buy your dream home is gone for good?  While this particular program may be over, what if something else existed to help?  Wouldn’t you want to know?  Fortunately one does!

The Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program is a Federal tax credit on the mortgage interest you pay on your home loan over a calendar year.  It effectively reduces the annual interest rate on your loan. 

This is not a limited life program or something offered for just a set period of time.  The MCC credit remains in effect for as long as your home continues to be your primary residence and the original mortgage loan remains in place.  Only if you refinance your home loan, sell your home or purchase a second home that becomes your primary residence, will the credit end.  Plus in select targeted areas you do not need to be a first-time home buyer to qualify.

Unfortunately this program is not offered in all states.  In the 5 states we currently do business only Michigan and Indiana offer the MCC program.  (This would be a great question to ask your state senators and representatives about if your state does not offer this program.)  Even more amazing though is that not all lenders participate in this program.  Awareness Home Funding does and will continue to do so for every state we conduct business in when available.   

If you are looking to purchase a home, now or in the future, ask us about the MCC program.  We are very familiar with how the program works and more importantly, how it can work for you.

Common Homeowner Tax Deductions

March 23, 2010

Owning a home is the American dream and a source of tremendous pride for you and your family.  Another advantage to buying real estate is the ability to shelter a portion of your income from federal taxes.  Following are some of the more common deductions available to home owners.  Along with some basic information on each are links (bold type) to the IRS website where detailed information can be found.    

As always, consult with the IRS or your tax professional for current guidelines and qualifying criteria on tax related matters.  For information about a home loan to meet your needs and goals, contact one of our licensed Loan Officers.

Mortgage Credit Certificate Program  –  The MCC program is a Federal tax credit of up to 20% of the interest you pay on your home loan over a calendar year, and is available in select states.  While this does not reduce your monthly payment, it is a dollar for dollar reduction in the amount of your Federal income tax liability.  In effect, you are lowering your home loan interest rate by a full percent.  The MCC program will remain in effect for as long as your home remains your primary residence and the original home loan remains in place.  Awareness Home Funding is a lender that does help our clients with this program.    

Home Buyer’s Tax Credit  –  Home buyers may be eligible for a tax credit of 10% of the purchase price of their newly acquired home.  First-time buyers may be able to claim up to $8,000; existing home owners may qualify for up to $6,500.  We have provided some information on this program in two separate articles (No Time Like the Present and The Other Side of the Coin).

Mortgage interest  –  Interest, in general, is defined as an amount paid for the use of borrowed money.  In order to deduct interest on your home mortgage loan, you must be legally liable for the debt that is secured by your main or secondary home.  This amount is generally reported to you on Form 1098 by the lender you have made payments to.  This form should also detail any prepaid interest you have paid.   

Points or Discount Points  –  Points refer to specific charges you may pay in order to obtain a lower interest rate for your home mortgage loan.  Fees associated with preparation costs, appraisals, inspections or notaries do not typically qualify as points.   

Mortgage insurance premiums  –  These expenses are paid to allow a buyer to pay a lower down payment than the 20-25% requirement of a Conventional loan and also protect the lender in the unfortunate event of default on the loan.  Qualifying mortgage insurance may be provided by:

  • The Federal Housing Administration in both an upfront and annual fee.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs as a one time funding fee
  • The Rural Housing Service as a one time guarantee fee

The amount which can be deducted is reported on Form 1098 by the lender you have made payments to.   

Real estate taxes  –  These are taxes charged on real property based on taxable value.  The IRS highlights what specific taxes associated with your property are deductible.  

Home offices  –  If you use a portion of your home for business purposes, you may be able to deduct certain expenses.  Typical items that may be deductible include the business portion of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, insurance, depreciation, maintenance and/or repairs.   

Moving expenses  –  If you moved due to a change in employer or occupation, you may be able to deduct your moving expenses.  The two qualifiers used to determine whether this deduction applies to your situation are distance and duration.   

Energy improvements  –  Occasionally, government supported programs allow specific home improvements to qualify for a federal tax credit or a partial rebate of the sales price to the homeowner.  These items are usually of an energy efficient nature for products such as appliances, windows or insulation for the home.   

Health related improvements  –  Home improvements made as a result of a health issue are expenses that may be deducted for the tax year they were paid.  The IRS considers these as Capital expenses and explains what may be included and how to claim these items. 

As always, consult with the IRS or your tax professional for all the current guidelines and qualifying criteria in order to take advantage of these tax deductions.  For information about a home loan to meet your needs and goals, contact one of our licensed Loan Officers.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

March 18, 2010

Last month we posted an article on RD (Rural Development) home loans.  We outlined the basics and how this is a great option to consider when purchasing a home, especially when so many areas and buyers may qualify.  Unfortunately, this program may come to a sudden halt – at least for the rest of this fiscal year.

Early last week a memo from the US Department of Agriculture Rural Development alerted lenders that they anticipated funding for this year’s program to be exhausted by the end of April, 2010.  This news itself is nothing earth shattering, but the timing most certainly is.  Normally funds start to become depleted in the fall near the end of USDA’s fiscal year which ends September 30th. 

The other challenge is that there will not be any Conditional Commitments.  Typically as funds are depleted, loans are conditionally approved pending more fund allocation.  Once the department has the new fiscal year’s budget approved with new government funding those loans are fully approved and business continues as usual.  Not this year.  Since there is such a huge gap between now and the start of the next fiscal year, Conditional Commitments are just not appropriate.

So what caused this problem?  Why did the funding end so quickly?  The easiest explanation is the growing popularity of the program.  Kevin Smith, Area Director for Rural Development says, “Record demand, not only in Michigan but nationally, for the Guaranteed Rural Housing loan program will led to the full utilization of Congressionally appropriated funding at an early time frame this fiscal year.”

We too have seen a steady increase in RD loans; and our company continues to underwrite more RD loans than any other lender in the state of Michigan.  As more borrowers learn about the program with low income requirements, 100% financing options, and the vast amount of area classified as rural; demand will continue to increase. 

The next obvious question is what can be done to ease this challenge in the future?  Should more money be allocated to the program?  Should the upfront funding fee be increased like the FHA program has done?  Should this be a top subject for Congress to focus on?  Smith could not comment on policy issues of the federal government, but one thing is sure.  If you want to take advantage of this program yet this fiscal year, you need to have a signed purchase agreement as soon as possible.  There are only 6 weeks left before committed funds are anticipated to be exhausted.  Miss this window, and you may need to wait until October to get in on this program again.

Things could always change based on how the federal government reacts.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, we’ll keep watching and will let you know how this program progresses.

We’re Not Laughing – Okay Maybe We Are

March 9, 2010

Humor could be described as a spice of life that can lighten a mood, liven a moment or linger as a memory.  Sometimes it can bring a full-roar laugh, a simple smile or like now, a sigh of relief that the topic does not apply to you.  We recently read an anecdote on the recent RESPA changes and how some loan officers might be inclined to respond.  Allow us to share …

ARE  YOU HAVING TROUBLE EXPLAINING RESPA TO BORROWERS?

If RESPA changes are the final blow – swaying you to consider a simpler career path, say neurosurgery or something, you are not alone.

I have to vent for a minute, because I know you are with me on this one. Let’s see….

A new borrower comes to you because his Realtor told him that you are a fabulous loan officer and he needs to get pre-approved and get a Good Faith Estimate.

You look the new borrower square in the eye and have to say, “Wonderful! But I can’t give you a Good Faith Estimate because you haven’t identified a property. But I can give you this other “Non-Binding Settlement Estimate” form that my legal department has authorized, that has a 2-page disclaimer stating that you can’t hold me to any of these figures.”

So the new borrower, with a confused look on his face, takes your new form and goes back to his Realtor. The Realtor calls you trying to figure out what you said to the new borrower who now, doesn’t feel so confident about you or anything else in this transaction. You explain. The Realtor calms down.

The new borrower comes back with an identified property and says; “Now I want a Good Faith Estimate.” You prepare one, in perfect accordance with the new RESPA procedures and hand it to new borrower. He gasps. “This is $3,000 more than the previous estimate you gave!”

“Oh, don’t be alarmed,” you say in your most toddler-calming voice. “This isn’t what you are really going to be paying. This is just how I have to disclose it to you.”

The new borrower gives you a sideways suspicious glance, “But what about all the fees the seller is paying on my behalf? I can’t find a credit on this form for those.”

“Don’t worry…it will all work out at closing. This is how we protect you now. We give you inaccurate information all the way up until you actually close on the property. Isn’t that fun! Kind of like a surprise party!” you happily chime – beaming like an idiot while beads of sweat run down your torso.

The new borrower marches out to his car in tearful frustration and calls the next lender on his list.

Scalpel anyone?

This could not be farther from the truth for us at Awareness Home Funding.  The new Good Faith Estimate (GFE) is really a very simple document that helps you, the client, actually understand the real cost of acquiring your home loan.  It lets you know where you have choices in the services you will need, such as a home inspection.  It tells you what fees should not be changing by more than 10%.  And if they do, there will be a good reason, and time for you to understand what just happened before the loan process continues.  It also tells you what fees will not change at all.

So why don’t some loan officers like the new regulations and required forms?  Why can’t they explain the information it details for you?  Why can’t they provide the new GFE for you upfront?  Why such the cloak and dagger approach to helping their clients?  (Now this part, we do find really funny.)

Check us out (http://www.awarenesshomefunding.com/).  Give us a call (866-982-9273).  Let us help you understand the loan process.  That is why you go to a professional in the first place, isn’t it?

No Time like the Present

March 1, 2010

There are many things in life where timing matters.  In order to gain the benefits involved, we need to take action within a specific timeframe or the opportunity is gone.   You could be the one who finds out a little too late that you missed the opportunity to recoup some significant money.  The offer referred to here is the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit, and the amount of savings involved could be as much as $8,000.  If you are thinking of buying a new home this spring, your opportunity to act is now

This incentive program has been making headlines and front stories for some time, but perhaps you still wonder if this applies to you.  When the federal government extended the program last fall, they also expanded the criteria to qualify making this a widespread opportunity.  The general guidelines contain two parts: first-time homebuyers and existing homebuyers. 

First-time homebuyers have been traditionally defined as those who have not owned a home in the past three years.  For these buyers, you may be eligible for a tax credit of 10% of the purchase price of your newly acquired home, up to $8,000.  (Consult with a tax professional for specific details on meeting this program’s qualifying criteria.)

One of the most significant additions to the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit program was to extend the credit to existing homeowners.  The general criteria are that you must have lived in the same home as your primary residence for any 5 consecutive years out of the past 8 years.  Existing homeowners purchasing a new primary residence home may also be eligible for a credit of 10% of the purchase price, up to $6,500.  (Again, consult your tax advisor for the exact qualifications of the program.)

The crucial point is to act now.  This program ends April 30, 2010.  Your purchase agreement must be fully executed by both buyer and seller by this date to qualify.  Take the first step to get pre-approved for a home loan by calling 866-982-9273.  We also have a secure on-line application on our website to get you started.  This is one event where being a split second off the timing means the difference between a nice rebate and nothing at all.